community

After the election I wrote about a local group forming in my neighborhood. I thought I would give an update on our local assembly and how we are progressing. Last night’s Farewell Address was more inspiring than I thought it would be, I had expected that I would cry (which I did, of course) but I did not think that I would be happy at the end of it, yet I was. Once again the man spoke with such passion that I felt how the Patriots at the Battles of Lexington and Concord may have felt. My thoughts were, “YES! We can do this. We should do this. We will do this.” In balance to President Obama’s speech last night, the minority elect president looked like a complete moronic buffoon at his first press conference, maybe it is better that he tweets instead of speak because the man cannot put a sentence together. He is Falstaff to Obama’s Cicero. Are the next 4 years going to be challenging? Oh, yes, they certainly are, but we can do it. We have struggled and triumphed before and we can defeat bigotry and hatred and greed. Let’s do as the president, who will surely go down in history as one of our greatest, asks, “....whether you are young or whether you're young at heart, I do have one final thing to ask of you as your President -- the same thing I asked when you took a chance on me eight years ago. I'm asking you to believe. Not in my ability to bring about change -- but in yours.” That’s what my little group in an obscure county are going to do, have faith in ourselves.

We have had several gatherings and a plethora of emails flying back and forth since we first met in the library in November. From 2 women developing an idea in a casual conversation we are now a core of 12 members with many others committing to do tasks as required. Our mailing list is now 30 citizens long. In a month or so we are going to open the group to the general public as we have had people in the community hear of our efforts and are asking to join us. We are working on a vision and mission statement and selecting a few target goals. Some of us have attended local planning, environmental, district and other types of community and council meetings for the first time in our lives! We spread the news of important events through our own networks and had 25 people come prepared with short speeches to address an issue in our local community to the planning board. Some of these people had never attended any kind of local government meeting and some had never spoken up before. I just charted 3 buses to take women from our community to the closest Women’s March.  I should tell you that our county population is 55,000, so 3 bus loads is pretty significant and does not include the many others who be traveling there by other methods. This is what we have accomplished in less than 2 months. Voices are longing to be heard and we plan to include them.

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Our meetings will be inclusive and we are not labeling ourselves Democrat or Republican, conservative or liberal- we are simply concerned citizens who want to improve our community for all the inhabitants. We only ask that dialogues are respectful and considerate. The rules we have are simple, let others finish speaking before you respond, allow at least 2 other people to speak until you speak again; of course, no insulting or disparaging of other people. We hope to be a hub to bring all the various local groups in connection with each other, to be a coalition of organizations. For example we have a local entity that has been around for many years concerned with responsible growth and we have another committee that is trying to maintain and protect our local forests. We want to be a link to support these two groups, “What do you need help with? Can we write letters for you? Are there meetings you want us to attend in support of a project? Should we make phone calls and who should we call?” We hope to create a chain of groups working together and supporting each other. We are finding that people have talents and knowledge that can be shared to enhance other organizations. There are many untapped sources that are longing to be utilized.

You may think your city is too big... however, you can carve out a smaller neighborhood to be part of, even within large cities there are districts. You can organize your own local neighborhood and start with determining an issue that is relevant to your needs. Do the kids in your area need a bigger park, does the park need to be maintained better? This could be a starting point. As you draw more people in you will become aware of other issues and you will probably find folks who have much knowledge and they have just been waiting for an outlet. This is an opportunity to give something back as well as create a better living space for you and your family. 

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It can be intimidating to get started and it may take you awhile to find the people and resources you need. I will tell you that once you get started you will become energized! It will probably surprise you. It’s hard to get out, it’s hard to engage when you already have so much to do, work, family, job and personal commitments. I know it’s hard to make the first move. “....do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too” John F. Kennedy

At the end of our last meeting one woman asked us to each say one word to describe how we felt at the end of the meeting and these are the words that came out of our members mouths, “energized, inspired, excited, ready, and confident”. That’s how we feel at the end of each of our gatherings and the next day our email accounts are blowing up with, “I also thought of...” AND “Here is another place we can ......” AND “This is the contact for the project....”, idea after idea. Some of us are taking on larger portions of the work and this is due to skill level, job and life commitments and other issues. It does not matter who is doing what- ask each person to do what they can and accept that some have different commitments. It will take everyone contributing to make any group successful. Some people are the flour for the cake and have a lot, some are the sugar, some are the single egg, some may only be able to add a teaspoon of vanilla but all ingredients are necessary. By working togther we become inspired and our efforts will pay off, even if it is just a small task at first.

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Currently I am reading 'Hamilton' by Ron Chernow,  the book Lin-Manuel  based his play upon, and if the Founding Fathers were able to complete the Constitution surely we can continue their legacy and work together for the betterment of us all. Those gentlemen fought passionately and bitterly and yet created an enduring document that has stood us well, we have modified it and worked with it and continue to do so but it takes all of us, especially in our own neighborhood. As Obama said, “Because for all our outward differences, we, in fact, all share the same proud title, the most important office in a democracy: Citizen.”

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Deborah Baron

Deborah Baron

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